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Tactical PR In The RKBA Wars  by Jim March

Tactical PR In The RKBA Wars:
A rebuttal to two recent KABA articles

by Jim March 

April 11, 2002

After reading this rebuttal, read a reply by clicking here. has recently published two articles containing content and ideas I deeply disagree with, and Angel Shamaya, author of the reports and KABA Director, has graciously allowed me to do a rebuttal.

The first involves the dissection of the NRA video "It Can't Happen Here", the second covers Heston's remarks during a radio interview ("Guns Make NRA President 'Nervous'").

Both cases share a common theme: the NRA's main targeted audience in both situations was the "general public" versus "committed gunnies".

Part 1 - The Video

"It Can't Happen Here" received massive airplay in California before the most recent Assembly election in 2000. California NRA leaders were deeply concerned that an all-Democrat trio of Assembly, Senate and Governor could lead to a redistricting nightmare turning the state into a one-party zone for decades. That in turn had implications nationally, in the Federal House and Senate, in addition to guaranteeing more gun control in-state.

They ran it as an infomercial, and NOT just late at night -- it got massive play.

IF the NRA had openly called for resistance to bad laws, it would have been banned from the airwaves. So the real question here is this: should outreach to the general public be done at all? In my opinion, hell yes it should -- but if the NRA had taken the stance Angel prefers, it wouldn't happen.

Next point, Chuck Michel's role in the specific turn-in mentioned was to make sure Bill Doss was in position to counter-sue, and/or do a successful defense in court. One of the basic rules of courtroom combat is that one must enter court with "clean hands", which is lawyer-speak for a whole set of ideas, including acting legally, acting in good faith, etc.

Yes, California's gun bans are unconstitutional. Virtually every reader seeing this will think so, as does Angel, as do I, as does Chuck Michel and for that matter Bill Doss. But the courts out here in the 9th Circuit do NOT think that way -- precedent out here says that the RKBA isn't an individual right, but rather a "collective right of the states to form state militias".

So until that finally changes, we work with what we got. They already knew Doss had the gun, "refusing to turn it in" would have just landed him far more jail time and NO chance of a defense or counter-attack.

Finally, "our side" got something else out of the Doss case: an obvious victim. Study all modern civil rights battles: the tide turns when the assailants are seen as the obvious aggressors in an unjust persecution. When the dogs and water cannons were turned loose in Selma AL, it pretty much guaranteed the end of segregation. Same with various British massacres of protesters in India, or the East Timor mess, or…heck, we could go on all day.

Do we WANT victims such as Doss? No! But when we get 'em, it's critical to make sure we publicize it in exactly the fashion the NRA did in that video.

But, per Angel, the message wasn't "pure" enough.

I cannot disagree more.

The founders of this nation used the same tactics the NRA is using now. They did large-scale PR, throwing up posters ("Broadsides") all over the place, publishing the Federalist and Anti-Federalist papers. Even the Boston Tea Party was basically a PR stunt. The end result was that when war came, they had about 1/3rd of the population firmly on their side, 1/3rd apathetic, 1/3rd still "Tories".

Same thing today, with a bonus: we get enough popular support going, we won't need to go as far as the Founders did.


Part 2 - Heston's Remarks

First thing, Heston spoke twice…the first time in 1997, I think it likely he hadn't thought those issues through well. I know that as I progressed into RKBA studies, acceptance of "personally owned battle rifles" was one of the last steps on the path, and that wasn't until 1999 in my case. I find it likely he just hadn't "gone there" yet with his understanding of Constitutional and practical issues. 

Was he really ignorant that there are semi-auto versions being banned? Dunno. But it IS possible: much of Heston's political activism was back during the Vietnam War era, and since images of the enemy using full-auto AK47s was indelibly etched on people of that time, it's possible he wasn't aware of more modern developments of that gun.

The second interview (in 2002) is more interesting, and although we still only have sketchy reports versus a true transcript, it looks to me like his response was significantly better thought-out. And if it's what I think he meant, it's significantly more sophisticated in terms of political effectiveness.

Ever tried to make a living in sales? I have. One of the first things you master is "how to deflect an objection".


You're selling Japanese cars. Guy walks up, says "American cars are the best!".

What do you do?

You do NOT say "no, Japanese are better!"…that's called a "pissing contest" and it doesn't lead to sales.

Instead, you "deflect" - you say something like "they've certainly got the tradition, but the Japanese have caught up, and the exchange rate dollar-to-yen makes 'em a real value - let me show you…" - and then you sell YOUR product, versus ripping into the other guy's stance. The latter is pointless because it's probably got as much to do with emotion as anything else.

Now go read that interview script again.

Heston does a classic deflection. The host's paranoia about "assault weapons" (which are no such thing, we all know that) is very common. Doesn't matter whether or not the host actually believes that BS, point is the majority of listeners do and that's who Heston was REALLY talking to.

Angel may not like it, any more than a Nissan executive might "like" a salesman's technique if he doesn't "defend" Japanese cars <grin>.

But it works.

What do y'all think the goal should be in a media opportunity such as Heston had at that radio station? In my mind, a "general good impression" to the public is first, trying to stir up additional activists out of the ranks of apathetic gun owners second, appeasing us "hardcore gunnie types" a distant third.

Decision time: we have to decide whether or not to be effective, or to be "ideologically pure". Even if you personally prefer the "pure" route, at least realize that there's another point of view, and don't automatically attack allies when they do the "effective" routine.

Both of these PR incidents that Angel complained about were highly effective.

After reading the above, read a reply by clicking here.

NRA Criticism Archives Here

Rebuttals Accepted Here


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